St. Marguerite d’Youville
Mother of Universal Charity
Our school was very blessed to be named after Marguerite d'Youville who was the first Canadian to be elevated to sainthood.
Marie-Marguerite Dufrost de Lajemmerais (maiden name) was born in Varennes, Quebec on October 15th, 1701. The eldest of six children, Marguerite’s father died when she was seven years old, leaving the family in great poverty. Through the goodwill of her great grandfather, she left home and studied for two years at the Ursulines in Quebec. At age 13 she returned home, assumed the responsibility for educating her siblings and provided invaluable support to her mother.
In 1722, she married Francois d’Youville. They had six children, four of whom died in infancy. His indifference, and illegal trading and gambling caused her great suffering. She faithfully cared for him when he became ill until his passing in 1730, leaving her in significant debt.
She opened a small store and provided for her sons’ education, both of who went on to become priests. Her own experience with poverty only served to deepen her compassion for the poor. With her children grown, Marguerite, along with several other women, dedicated their lives to serving God through assisting the poor. They founded the Sisters of Charity of Montreal or the “Grey Nuns”, so known by the colour of their habits. Their dedication to the poor broke with the social conventions of the day and made them the objects of ridicule and persecution.
In 1747, Marguerite was asked to oversee the administration of the General Hospital in Montreal. Marguerite and her companions restored the Hospital, eliminated its debt and provided care to all, especially those marginalized by society. When the hospital was destroyed by fire in 1766, Marguerite knelt in its ashes, offered praise to God and began the rebuilding process.
Marguerite passed away on December 23, 1771 after a lifetime of devotion to Jesus Christ. Her Sisters of Charity continue to serve to this day. Pope John XXIII beatified her in 1959 bestowing her “Mother of Universal Charity”. She was canonized in 1990 becoming the first native Canadian elevated to sainthood.
St. Marguerite d’Youville Feast Day is October 16th.